Speaking from the Knesset plenum on Wednesday, far-right Religious Zionism MK Bezalel Smotrich said David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, should have “finished the job” and kicked all Arabs out of the country when it was founded.
During comments on a contentious immigration bill proposed by the opposition, Smotrich shouted about the need to maintain Israel as a Jewish and Democratic state. “Yes, Jewish, with a Jewish majority,” he called out. “With security for the citizens of the State of Israel.”
Smotrich was heckled by several Arab Knesset members and retorted: “I’m not speaking to you, anti-Zionists, terror supporters, enemies,” he said. “You’re here by mistake, it’s a mistake that Ben-Gurion didn’t finish the job and didn’t throw you out in 1948.”
In response, Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman slammed Smotrich’s “fascist” remarks.
“We are subject to this fascist filth almost every day in the Knesset,” said Touma-Sliman. “But don’t think about us. Think about how every Arab citizen feels when a statement like this is made casually in the parliament. Think about how every young [Arab] feels when the right-wing threatens a second Nakba,” she added, using the Arabic word for disaster, which Palestinians use to refer to the founding of the State of Israel.
Far-right activists sometimes use the concept of a “second Nakba” as a threat to Arabs.
Smotrich was reacting with outrage to the failure of a bill brought by his fellow party MK Simcha Rotman aimed at changing the Law of Return and revising Israeli immigration policies. The bill failed 45-57, with coalition MKs, including Yamina, voting against the law. The Religious Zionism MK said he had no expectation for the support of the Joint List MKs, who he labeled enemies, but was horrified to see right-wing members of Knesset oppose the bill.
The opposition, including Smotrich and his party, had previously voted down legislation proposed by the coalition to limit immigration.
Smotrich has a long history of making inflammatory and outlandish statements. In August, he implied that the Tel Aviv gay pride parade in June touched off a new wave of coronavirus infections. In April, he warned of civil unrest if the attorney general disqualified Benjamin Netanyahu from forming a government due to his indictment on corruption charges. And earlier the same month, he said during remarks at a faction meeting that “Arabs are citizens of Israel, for now, at least. They have representatives, MKs, for now at least.”
He’s also called in the past for Israel’s justice system to be based on biblical law.